Sunday, June 12, 2011

Doula Work: One Year In

So, I've been a doula for a year and a half now, my first client-baby was born 13 months ago. Oh, what I've seen!

In me: I've changed. A lot. I don't fear driving in metro areas so much. I often drive to neighborhoods I've never been to, with no anxiety. I meet big ole family dogs who lick me, again with little anxiety. I spend all day every other Saturday or so away from home, stacking client appointments up so I can save trips and therefore fuel cost. Somewhere inside, I've grown and changed. Something is rising up in me that wants to protest the status quo of birth in American hospitals. Yet I find myself bringing cookies to the nurses and enjoying the greetings from nurses I've worked with before. I have more of an awe of just how fearfully and wonderfully made we really are. The Great Designer of life has made a beautiful work of birth. Moms and babies know just what to do and the hormones, reflexes, and built in hard-wiring is amazing (if we'd just stop meddling with it all!).

In our medical system: I just shake my head. I cry. Some days more than others. I sobbed after leaving a couple who were forced to strategically plan their vaginal birth after a Cesarean. Sobbed mostly for their success but also in frustration for them. Why must it be a fight? I have seen a doctor try to convince two different moms to let him do an episitomy each one clearly stated on her birth plan she didn't want. Each baby was doing fine, so there was no valid rush. Yet when the moms said they didn't want an episiotomy, each time the doctor shoved the mom's tissue up over baby's head like a too-tight turtle neck. Both moms tore moderately. I suspect it was his frantic hands-on approach to blame.

I've seen doctors outright lie to moms. One felt the need to tell mom that her baby would die if the shoulders didn't come out right. This was before the head had even been delivered, so what was the point? I've seen a doctor who doesn't do vaginal births after Cesareans pretend they did, only to pull the proverbial rug out from under mom at the last minute, giving her a fictitious reason a repeat surgery would be needed. I've seen a doctor rush his patient to deliver, putting a time restriction on her pushing time just because the L&D floor was busy. If she didn't perform this nearly super-human feat? Surgical birth for no good reason. She pushed like mad and tore as her baby was born under the time limit. One nurse confided in me that needing to pick up the kids from school is a determining factor in one OBs use of Pitocin to manage labors.

But I've seen doctors cheer on a mom doing it all the old fashioned way. One mom had a very fast labor and arrived at the hospital near the pushing stage. She wore a gown and gave birth on a hospital bed, but nothing else was medical about it. She pushed her baby out on her side in 20 minutes. The doctor said, "This is how everyone should do it."

In more than one birth, it's been the nurse who saved my client from an unnecessary Cesarean birth. Recently, one of those nurses was gently coaching my client to push, counting to ten for her. My client told me later that as she blew out her breath half way (the preferred method for moms who actually want their babies to get oxygen during pushing), she purposefully opened her eyes to check the nurse's reaction to her rebellion. The nurse was apparently looking at me knowingly. The she smiled.

Families: This is the best part. I love getting tearful hugs from the new Grandmas as I say my goodbyes after a birth. They know all too well the joyful mountain top experience the new parents are experiencing. And what a sweet moment it is when a Daddy sees his child's head start to emerge. The looks on their faces the first time they lock eyes with their baby. It's fresh on my mind right now, so it stands out more, but I will never forget the pride the husband of a vbac-ing mom has. He did it, too! She wasn't alone in her quest for a vaginal birth, he supported her and even more importantly, he saw her achieve it. It's nothing like the work a Cesarean birth demands (more emotional and restrengthening afterwards). Vaginal birth is powerful from the core of her being, especially when she's fighting the system to get it. The wise husband can't miss this and he will forever be changed by witnessing her strength.

The strength of laboring women has changed me too. And I'm so glad.


Vicki said...

:) I'm so glad to hear your story. All giel homeschool is about u being the student too!

The Mrs. said...

So, are you allowed to speak to these doctors to remind them of what your clients preference are, etc.? Or do you just have to bite your tongue? Do you tell the clients later what you think of their doctors? Just curious here.

Bets's Blog said...

I just stumbled on this post today. I am a v-bac mom and it was a very proud moment. I was happy to read your story. Thank you.